Rapid large-scale urbanization and improper countryside development are the main challenges facing cultural heritage protection in China, experts said Wednesday at a forum in east China's Jiangsu province.
Hundreds of experts at home and abroad attending the 7th Wuxi Forum on the Conservation of China's Cultural Heritage urged China to pay close attention to world cultural heritage and realize sustainable development in its protection.
Improper development throughout the countryside has damaged the structure, environment and features of some historical villages in China. The harmonious relationship between human beings and nature has been broken. Moreover, accelerated urbanization has also put historical cities and towns under the great pressure of hosting a large population, said Tong Mingkang, deputy director of State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Statistics show that built-up urban areas have increased to cover 40,000 square kilometers from 1996 to 2010, doubling the amount of built-up urban areas in 15 years.
"Problems with the sustainable development of cultural heritage have been exposed in the past 20 years of rapid development. Moreover, the sustainability of cultural heritage protection has become extremely challenging, given current resources and environmental circumstances," said Chen Tongbin, a senior expert from the China Architecture Design & Research Group.
"Although our country has diverse cultural heritages, not all of them are suitable for tourism. We should protect and develop cultural heritages in accordance with their different features and in-depth surveys," said Zhang Jie, a professor with the School of Architecture of Tsinghua University.
In some underdeveloped regions of China, historical buildings and villages have been abandoned as a growing number of people move to cities, while others have deteriorated due to a lack of maintenance.
Meanwhile, in urban areas, it has become fashionable to use ancient streets for modern purposes, such as developing them as shopping or entertainment destinations.
Abhimayu Singh, the representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to China, said that only by fully understanding that cultural heritage is the core demand of social development, can people know that heritage protection is a "mutual responsibility," not just a "label."
Mounir Bouchenaki, special consultant to UNESCO, said we should let decision-makers know that investment in cultural heritage is a key element and source of social development. And we should stick to using information technology as an advantage for helping more people learn about cultural heritage and the importance of protection work, as they are the ultimate beneficiaries.
Bouchenaki said that China is now facing unprecedented opportunities in cultural heritage protection, but it is also facing international pressures and challenges, including economic construction, climate changes, natural disasters, environmental changes and tourism development.
During the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015), the State Administration of Cultural Heritage will create a "credible, representative and balanced" preparatory list for China's world cultural heritage, and build up an early-warning monitoring system across the country to combine world cultural heritage preventive conservation and emergency conservation efforts, said Tong Mingkang.